Living Alaska: Expect the unexpected, even when hiking Flattop
I almost forgot my bear spray. For a moment, I thought I’d be fine without it, as I’ve been trekking up Flattop Mountain more times than I can count. When a little nagging voice inside of my head told me not to be a dummy, I turned back home to grab it.
Two minutes later, I was pulling out of my driveway and heading to the Hillside. When we arrived I strapped my dog Brodie into his harness, clipped him into his leash and we began our ascent.
He was hiking for adventure; I was hiking for peace of mind.
My mind had been cloudy with personal chaos, sparked by the kind of unexpected life events that will change the course of the rest of your life in an instant — leaving you with the lingering feeling of anxiety and uncertainty.
We worked our way around the backside of Blueberry Hill, carefully moving around bits of the old broken trail, with a stellar view of the Chugach Mountains, instead of the city skyline. The wind and the leaves rustled.
As we passed a bit of heavy shrubbery, Brodie, who had been walking at a trot, became defensive. He let out a loud bark. I yanked on his leash and kept us moving forward, but after a few steps I saw it.
Brodie turned his body back toward the trail we’d already walked and planted himself firmly into the ground. His hair stood up and he began making this low, rumble growl.
There was a brown bear looking at us, and we were looking at it.
Brodie stood stoically; I stood behind him.
With one hand, I tried to slowly reach for the clip on the harness. I wanted to be able to release him if the bear began to attack; I figured we both had a better chance of survival if we weren’t connected.
With the other hand, I removed the plastic safety guard from the top of the bear spray I had slung over my shoulder; all the while trying to remember what I’d heard bear experts say about staying big.
Then, as I lifted the canister, I thought about the wind. The bear was downwind from me.
I pulled the trigger. I don’t know for how long, but I kept pressing it until the bear made a sort of deep breath or woofing sound and ran off into the woods. Then we ran too; around the rest of Blueberry Hill and back down the mountain.
I don’t remember what was going through my head in that moment. The last thing I remember thinking was ‘S—, I really hope this can of bear spray still works.’
But I didn’t think of the chaos; I thought about what I was capable of doing to survive and I did it.
For a minute, when I got back to my truck, Brodie and I just sat there in shock. He was looking at me with that big, floppy puppy dog smile like ‘Did I do good mom?’ Yes, little buddy you did, I said with a rub on his head and a couple of Yummy Chummy dog treats.
I left with a little grin on my face; proud that I was able to safely get myself out of that situation. And in a weird, only-an-Alaskan, kind of way it was what I needed; although I do wish the lesson could have come without such large risk.
It reminded me that I could be brave because sometimes you have to be.
Megan Edge is a lifelong Alaskan residing in West Anchorage. The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of KTVA. Living Alaska is a regular feature, appearing on KTVA.com, about experiencing the Last Frontier through the outdoors.
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